My Must-Have Eye Brushes

February 18, 2011

I’ve accumulated so many brushes over the years from dozens of different brands, I’m embarrassed to admit just how many I have. Finding the right tools are essential for good makeup application – I’ve played with each and every brush using them for practically every type of powder or cream, experimenting with different textured products, trying different application techniques, testing out different angles & applying different pressure. When I first started blogging I did a comprehensive post on all the brushes I own by type. I’ve linked it here Beauty Tools & Essentials: Eye Brushes for your reference.

The brushes listed below are my go-to brushes that I love so much I have multiples of these. Some have lasted me over 10 years now. I wash mine with Neutrogena’s Body Wash as needed. Probably about once every couple of weeks to once a month. Note I do not have a crease so I don’t typically use brushes specifically for the crease or outer V.

I personally prefer full sized brushes with longer handles because they are easier to hold in the hands while applying and they are easier to store. For short-handled travel brushes, I’ve accumulated a number from different sets but have never found the perfect travel brush set. I usually tend to avoid those brush sets simply because I find the quality to be poor. Laura Mercier seems to be the exception and has the best ones I’ve tried and I love her mini brushes that come with special sets or palettes.

1. Stila #4 Precision Eye Liner Brush $20 – this one has lasted me since my senior year in high school, soft but precise for layering dark shadows over a pencil or gel liner

2. Laura Mercier Smudge Brush $24 – small dense smudge brush with a fine point at the tip, good for getting into those corners or detail areas, extremely versatile for powders & creams, I like that it’s dense but soft and easy on my sensitive eyes, great for smudging liner for a soft blended look

3. Becca Brush #11 – now discontinued, similar in shape to MAC 242 – this is my perfect brush for cream eyeshadow

4. MAC 224 Tapered Blending Brush $29 – soft loose and fluffy, best for a super sheer wash of color and good for blending colors

5. MAC 219 Pencil Brush $24.50 – small pointy and dense, good for a smokey eye and getting to corners for detailing along bottom lashes

6. MAC 217 Blending Brush $22.50 – one of my most favorite brushes ever, super soft and versatile, great for blending and layering, love that it’s big enough to cover a big portion of the eye but small enough to control color where you want it, definitely a must have in every collection

7. MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush $24.50 – another favorite, this is the best brush to pack on color by patting or sweeping, picks up product well and allows control depending on how much product you have on your brush and the pressure you use to apply powders on the lids, if you use it sideways (versus flat) you can use it to get a smudgey line, another great versatile brush, blends colors well

8. MAC 242 Shader Brush $24.50 – I like this for cream shadows that I don’t want all over the lid, the small size allows thicker more pigmented application, I’ve used this for smudging gel liners, it also works for powders too, but I mostly use this for creams

9. Bobbi Brown Ultra Fine Eyeliner Brush $25 – no comparison for gel liners, this is the best one I’ve tried, the tiny tip allows for a precise application even for those with unsteady hands

10. Bobbi Brown Eye Liner Brush $25 – another great option for powder eye liners and precise application with one sweep, I don’t like angled liner brushes because I find the tips too wide and harsh for my eyes, this one from Bobbi Brown is stiff but gentle

11. Trish McEvoy #21 Large Laydown $53 – pricey and a total splurge but well worth the price, love this for both powders and creams
12. MAC 227 Large Fluff Brush $30 – a great all over fluff brush that is densely packed but allows for an even wash of color all over the eyes with one sweep

Detailed close ups:

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  • Anonymous

    Have you been able to find a quality travel brush set? I'm having such a time finding that. Thanks!

  • I like the review very much! Thanks for that!

  • I really enjoyed reading this. It has made me wonder if I need another 217, mine is good but sometimes feels a little scratchy. You've made me want to try a few more of the pencil type brushes as well.
    Jane x

  • Amy

    thanks for sharing ^^ this is really helpful!

  • The MAC 217 is my most favorite brushes ever too ! But I don't know Becca brushes…

  • agree! hands down 217 is the best all-round eye brush =) i've been on the hunt for a great gel eye liner brush .. will definitely check out the bobbi brown brush. thank youuu x

  • p

    i love reading about brushes! can you do a must-have face brush review. i'm looking for a new foundation brush and i would love to heard your thoughts. what's the different between trish mcevoy #55 and the giorgio armani #13? they're both blender brushes.

  • JessL

    Hi just wondering when would you use the 224 over the 217 for blending? Thanks!

  • Loved reading about your must-haves – I don't do a lot with eye shadow – so I don't need a lot of eye brushes.

    I own the MAC 217, 219 and 239. Since I usually just wear a wash of colour on my lid with an inner-vee highlight, I only use my 219 (for the highlight) – and I've discovered the ELF studio "c" brush – it does such an amazing job of sweeping colour across my lid – it's my favourite eye brush now – and it was only $1.50!

  • Anonymous

    Have you tried the Giorgio Armani brushes? Their eye brushes are some of my favorites.

  • What a great collection! 🙂 I think I get the most use out of my MAC 217, 239 and 219. I'm always happy to find great new brushes though!